The substitution of the re-titled “Women’s Equality Amendment” (WEA) for the same old text of what was known in the 1970s as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a real-life validation of George Orwell’s fictional portrayal of the opportunism of extremist political movements and their tendency to turn high-minded ideals into the opposite of what they promise. In “Animal Farm,” Orwell’s allegory of the Soviet revolution, the pigs proclaim that “All animals are equal.” Once they seize power, the pigs revise the principle: “But some animals are more equal than others.”
Promoters of the WEA claim that it will prohibit discrimination against both men and women. But if so, why the name change? The entire U.S. Constitution has always been gender neutral, and without the help of feminists. The aim of the new sexual militants is not to ensure the “equal protection of the laws,” but – precisely the opposite – to signal that only one sex is equal.
Whatever the situation 35 years ago, today’s name change is a declaration not of weakness but of strength. Virtually all forms of “discrimination” against women have been proven to be false or eliminated. Warren Farrell has shown the fallacy of the “wage gap.” Christina Hoff Sommers demonstrated that, far from being privileged, it is boys who are now struggling under feminist changes in public education.
In fact, if any group faces systematic discrimination today, it is males. And it is not trivial. Men routinely lose their children, along with everything else they possess (including their freedom), in divorce courts, because child custody is virtually automatic to mothers, even when the mother is the one breaking up the family. Feminists not only defend but celebrate this “divorce revolution” and resist shared parenting provisions that would allow children to have their fathers as well as mothers after divorce.
Much more is at work here than just than the principle that, all else being equal, young children need their mothers. Men lose their children even when they have given neither consent nor grounds to divorce and are legally faultless. Further, the legal innovation that opened the door to mass fatherlessness was itself the creation of organized feminism. As author Judy Parejko has shown, the National Association of Women Lawyers designed the “no-fault” divorce system as long ago as the 1940s.
So perhaps we need a resurrected ERA to protect men. I would be very skeptical. It is precisely to head off that possibility that feminists have changed the name to permit only feminist-approved definitions of equality.
Feminists and their judicial allies are very adept at redefining words to suit their interests. For example, laws already provide for gender equality in child custody. Feminists circumvent them by invoking different male and female roles (“primary caretaker”) when it works to their advantage. These ensure that “the hand that rocks the cradle” is a feminist one.
Thus do feminists either ignore or invoke biological reality to suit their immediate interests and make up new rules as they go along. According to their most tortured definition of inequality, feminists argue that because only women have babies denying taxpayer funding for abortion is discrimination against women.
The opportunism is visible in existing feminist legislation. Promoters of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) claim it protects both men and women. Yet laws against violent assault already do that. VAWA, on the contrary, eliminates the gender-neutrality of criminal law by skewing it toward one group; as such, it is essentially a “hate crimes” law. And this clearly is the purpose, since otherwise why do feminists vehemently oppose changing the name of VAWA to one that is gender neutral? VAWA-funded programs specifically exclude male victims of domestic violence, though a virtually unanimous body of scholarly research demonstrates that men are equally likely to be assaulted.
Here too the consequences are far more serious than “discrimination.” Patently trumped-up domestic violence accusations are likewise used in custody cases to break up families by ensuring not only that divorcing mothers get monopoly custody of children, but that the children will be excluded from contact with the “patriarchy” represented by their fathers. Further, fathers are criminalized not for physical assault but for domestic “violence” that has no precise definition and may be no more than verbal insults. The Orwellian irony is when “human rights” groups like Amnesty International promote the violation of human rights by VAWA in the name of women’s equality.
“Power is the alpha and the omega of contemporary Communism,” wrote Yugoslav dissident Milovan Djilas during the repression of the 1950s. “Ideas, philosophical principles, and moral considerations … all can be changed and sacrificed. But not power.” Something similar can be said about today’s feminism, an ideology with no fixed principles. At times gender differences are “social constructions”; at other times women have special “needs.” Women are oppressed by gender roles, but those same roles make women more “compassionate” and “caring.” Women and men must compete on equal terms, except when men must be excluded from certain competitions in order that women can win. Fathers should share equally in rearing children, but sole custody must always go to mothers, regardless of fault.
Alison Jaggar, author of “Living With Contradictions,” proclaims openly that feminists should insist on “having it both ways”: “They should use the rhetoric of equality in situations where women’s interests clearly are being damaged by being treated either differently from or identically with men.” Her words are revealing. This “rhetoric of equality” is just that: rhetoric. As with Humpty Dumpty, words like “equality” change meanings as convenient; “interests” alone endure. But the bottom line is always power: to increase the power not so much of women, as of those women who claim to speak on behalf of the rest.
Those who want to know where the feminist revolution is now going may wish to read Orwell’s account of how the pigs’ revolution turned out.
Stephen Baskerville, Ph.D., is assistant professor of government at Patrick Henry College and author of “Taken Into Custody: The War Against Fathers, Marriage, and the Family,” (Cumberland House Publishing, 2007).